Stoyan Tchaprazov won for his translation from the Bulgarian of The Misunderstood Civilization by Dobri Voinikov.
From the judges’ citation: A caustic satire from 1871, Dobri Voinikov’s play The Misunderstood Civilization is an indictment of the drive to westernize in the years leading up to Bulgaria’s independence from the Ottoman Empire. Hadji Kosta, the protagonist of the play and a wealthy shopkeeper, tries to hold his family together as his wife, daughter, and son are each bewitched by flourishes of European decadence from the play’s villain Margaridi, an “apostle of quasi-civilization.” The play’s commentary on the contradictions of gender roles, the trappings of tradition, and westernization as blind imitation, have made it a staple in Bulgarian theater and film since. Stoyan Tchaprazov’s nimble translation captures Voinikov’s sharp-tongued mockery and the heteroglossia of the late Ottoman Bulgaria, breathing new life into a work that remains uneasily relevant to the present.
Now in their 20th year, the PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants promote the publication and reception of translated world literature into English. Established by a gift from Priscilla and Michael Henry Heim in response to the dismayingly low number of literary translations appearing in English, the fund has supported more than 200 projects.
For the 2023 cycle, the judges reviewed applications from a wide array of languages of origin, genres, and time periods. Selected from this vast field of applicants are 10 projects, including Urdu, Swahili, Bulgarian, Filipino, and more.